Two Nights of Umphrey's McGee in Colorado 6.7 & 6.8
Words By J-man
Photos By Kevin Hahn
At a time of elevated expectations, unchecked judgement and the saturation of many of the country's music scenes, one band continues their climb to the top. A large part of Umphrey's McGee's rise to musical power has included attention to the mountain state of Colorado. Overwhelming passion and repeated showings from their fans in CO have yielded a raised bar and direct criticism of every show that the band performs. To speak bluntly, Umphrey's McGee's last couple of Red Rock shows have fallen short in the minds of many die hard "Umphreaks," creating a notion that their Boulder show that typically follows Red Rocks is the show not to be missed. With a huge announcement in the works, Umphrey's McGee had big plans for their two night Colorado run. Night one would take place at the fabled Red Rocks Amphitheatre, whereas night two would unfold at the almost unfamiliar Chautauqua Auditorium, nestled at the base of the ever-so-epic Flatirons (large flat rock faces in succession that shoot from the ground in an impressive array).
Red Rocks Amphitheatre
"Loose Ends" followed for the evening's first short song, again featuring Bayliss' vocals. "Loose Ends" transitioned into "40's Theme," a song that the band has been playing for over a decade. As things slowed down in the middle of the song, Jake took the liberty of introducing the band starting with Ryan Stasik. "This is kind of where we start the groove from, you see." Jake said with a smile. "A lot of times it just starts with this," as Stasik thumped away. "Sometimes that's all you need," Jake said as a sort of follow up. Joel Cummins' intro followed, with Andy Farag sliding in on the congas per Jake's request. Kris Myers came next with Bayliss getting his mention before taking over to intro Jake. There was a light breeze in the air as Jake jumped into an airy solo that soared through impressive arpeggios and perfect tone, before the band once again took off returning to the signature lick from "40's Theme!" The crowd erupted with appreciation. It was clear already that the evening was not "just another UM Red Rocks show."
The second set began with "Triple Wide," a crunchy favorite that opens up to endless improvisational possibilities. Red Rocks became a dance party! Folks rushed back to their seats as to not miss a minute of the performance. Heavy synth work from Joel took the band straight into "1348" from their 2009 release, Mantis. Distortion built with fury as "1348" kicked into full gear. The venue became a madhouse of people dancing and celebrating what up to that point was an incredible setlist. Atmospheric highs dropped down into the signature lick before one last instrumental burst. The set continued with "Push The Pig," making room for Joel to show what he could do on the synth. Also at the forefront was Stasik, dropping phat baselines that made the crowd wobble with sensual low end delight. "Push The Pig" jumped up a beat and transitioned into the newer, "Comma Later." The song's jam was already well developed with the band diving into an interesting section. Another throwback came in the form of "Glory" with Jake chopping away at his guitar in a percussive fashion. The sweet song built into something powerful and prominent before the band returned to the earlier unfinished "Divisions!" Another transition to another throwback from over a decade ago, came with "Get In The Van."
Fans old and new exited the venue in a haze, trying to piece together what they had just experienced. The talk of the lot was Chautauqua and what the following night would bring. For many it was a pipe dream, as the Auditorium only holds 1,300 people, a fraction of what Red Rocks could accommodate. For 1,300 lucky fans, the following night in Boulder would be a very special treat!
Set One: Divisions > The Floor, Loose Ends > 40's Theme, In The Kitchen, Frankie Zombie, Miss Tinkle's Overture
Set Two: The Triple Wide -> 1348, Push the Pig > Comma Later, Glory > Divisions > Get In The Van, August > Big Heart > August, Thunderstruck
Encore: Preamble > Mantis
Umphrey's fans shifted their universe to Boulder on Saturday night with just over a thousand lucky fans clutching what felt like a golden ticket. The approach to the auditorium had the feel of a college campus with blankets in the grass and frisbees in the air. Familiar UM fans hugged and celebrated what would be a beautiful night as the line to get in began to build. At the front of the line a friendly police officer watched over a herd of hippies who consumed both alcohol and marijuana openly. "There are no bathrooms inside. Bathrooms are located in the Dining Hall over there and we do allow re-entry," the officer said to the crowd of confused onlookers. Entering the venue the staff and security seemed to be volunteers, creating a very comfortable environment. Light from outside shined through the cracks in the walls further elevating the feeling of an intimate barn show, yet this was no barn. The band took the stage in the small room and began with "Thin Air," off of their long out of print, Songs For Older Women." Once again, by the end of their first song, they were already shredding.
"Ladies and gentleman a round of applause for Joel Cummins... The man, the myth, the legend. It's a privilege and an honor to stand next to this man every night. I learn every day from this guy. Not a day goes by where wisdom isn't parted from this man," Brendan said in a humorous manner. "Thank you. Brendan, you're a lucky guy. Sweet Hoodie," Joel fired back. Following some laughter from the crowd, the band closed the first set with "All in Time," setting the stage for one of the evening's clear highlights. The song comes from the band's first album and reflected years of practice and development. For approximately twenty minutes the band explored the full potential of "All In Time," venturing through an array of musical stylings. "Thank you all very much. We're Andy Farag and the Fabric Softeners. We're taking a very short break. We'll see ya in a few minutes for another set, so don't go changin'." Following the first set the typical mad scramble ensued with folks heading outside to smoke, or to the beer garden for a drink, as their was no alcohol allowed inside of the venue.
With Umphrey's fans staring down the barrel of the final set of the two night run, there was a bittersweet excitement in the air. The second set began with "Robot World" off of Anchor Drops, noted on the official setlist as "Jimmy Stewart" with lyrics. "Example 1" followed off of their 2001 release, One Fat Sucka, creating a nice balance in the setlist with a slower, grooving track. Another few throwbacks made the evening's cut as the band kicked into "Nemo," keeping pace with a bit of a chill groove before "Walletsworth." The fury of the track felt like it was going to cause a collapse of the venue, with UM starting and stopping on the drop of a dime before venturing into "Nothing Too Fancy" from Local Band Does O.K.. This point of the show was another of the clear highlights. The duel lead work of Brendan and Jake reinforced why many consider them one of the best guitar duos on the scene. Myers' playing on the kit was mind-blowing, never missing a beat and almost always leading the charge. Through intense as well as soothing transitions, the composition of the extended song was incredible. Eighteen minutes after it began it was assumed that we had reached the conclusion of the second set, but nay. Leave it to UM to "blow their stack" and go back for more.
The second set closed with a sixteen minute "Booth Love" off of Mantis. The song was a great way to wind down the set... then wind it back up. UM exited the stage for a couple of mins only to return to the "We want the UMPH" chant from the capacity crowd. "Thank you Colorado for making this weekend as amazing as it has been! We couldn't do it without you guys," Jake said with a cheers. The first of two encores began with "Syncopated Strangers," another song the has been in the mix for the better part of a decade. The song began sweet and got extremely weird in the middle with soaring synth and almost middle eastern sounding vocals from Bayliss, before returning to normalcy and transitioning into "Dear Prudence" to end the weekend. Though it wasn't ripping, it was a heartfelt way to celebrate a great couple of days together. Folks sang along, smiled and hugged knowing that would be the end. Many took comfort in the fact that UM would be returning to Colorado for their New Years run.
Set Two: Robot World > Example 1, Nemo, Walletsworth > Nothing Too Fancy, Booth Love
Encore: Syncopated Strangers > Dear Prudence
The bar was set high for Umphrey's McGee's two night Colorado run and they themselves raised it further. Two flawless nights of music in addition to some of the best lights on our scene, ensured that no fan left unsatisfied. As Umphrey's fans and popularity continue to grow, I see only greatness for this powerhouse of a band. It may be that there are bands with a bigger following who have been at it longer, but I would argue that UM is one of the best at what they do and on the rise to the top of the musical pyramid. I've said it before and I will say it again: "Ask me who my favorite band is and I will probably say 'Umphrey's McGee!'"
Kevin's Red Rocks Photo Gallery
Kevin's Chautauqua Photo Gallery